Vitti should be a leader and not fail kids based on a flawed test

The third grade teacher I talked to said it was a shame what
we were doing to the families in their class. Family’s plans were being put on
hold and the unbelievable stress put on kids was being allowed to continue. It is
even worse they continued, all this for a test which isn’t valid.
The teacher said they proctored it for several disabled students
and as a result was allowed to read the questions. Question after question they
felt were invalid, covering standards not introduced to third graders. When
they asked about it they were told that the test had outlier questions built
into it because they were still developing the test.
Friends that means the state is field testing as they give
the test using our kids as guinea pigs with their futures on the line. The
state is asking kids to build a bike while they are riding it.
Superintendent Vitti has to be aware of this as he is surely
aware that the company that was hired to validate the FSA tests say they won’t
be back with their report untll the end of August when the next school year is
in session.
It’s not like superintendent Vitti’s hands are tied either. He
does not have to wait for the results of the test. Other districts are using,
IREADY, the Stanford 10 and Achieve, common tests or software that districts use
during the year and trusting teachers by using report cards, or you know what happens
in every other grade.  Only third graders
face such a heavy penalty for not doing well on the state tests, one that I
again remind you nobody knows if it is valid or not.

Nobody is saying Vitti and the district shouldn’t retain
kids that failed their classes but almost universally people think it is wrong
to fail kids based on one test, especially this year’s test. The super should
step up and say, that isn’t going to happen here.

To see what another district is doing, click the link:

Is Vitti’s relationship with Gary Chartrand the reason he is willing to disrupt children’s lives.

Superintendent Vitti arguably owes his position to Gary Chartrand,
the influential and rich local grocer who has his fingers in just about every
local education pot imaginable. He also parlayed support of Rick Scott to a
spot on the state board of education despite the fact he was never a teacher
nor worked in a school.

Where most of the state is in an uproar about testing, the
horrible roll out, common core and thinks it is a terrible idea to fail third graders,
Chartrand gave it all a thumbs up when he said education commissioner Pam Stewart
has done a good job, a sentiment that few besides Chartrand share.

I believe Chartrand wants our schools to fail because he
knows that will drive more parents to charter schools and private schools that
take vouchers. He is okay with the disaster unfolding in our schools because it
serves his ideological position and Vitti rather than doing what is right and
saying the district will not fail children based on a flawed test is going

Jacksonville deserves a super that will serve
the needs of the families and children of Jacksonville not the needs of an ideologically
driven grocer who would dismantle our schools given the chance.  

Is it single gender and uniforms that turned Butler around or something else?

If you look at the staff roster for the two schools at
Butler it shows there are forty certified staff. In the Times Union it says
there are 12 full time City Year (a government sponsored service organization) personnel
there too. All this for a school with 471 kids.
I think districts have to experiment to see what works.
I have no problem with trying  kids wearing uniforms  or single gender classes. Though I have to say since it’s usually
done in schools that are predominantly African American I do find that
But is it uniforms that turned the school around or is it
the incredible staff to student ration? Is it single gender classes or is it teachers
being able to give individual attention?

Occam’s razor says the simplest explanation is usually the
correct one, and giving teachers manageable class loads where they can give
kids the attention they need, not having single gender classes and uniforms is the
lesson I believe we should take form Butler Middle school.

Vouchers, who cares if there is no accountability? Not the Florida conference of Catholic Bishops anyways.

Somebody who benefits from vouchers says vouchers
are great. Facepalm!
You know what gets me about the guys that support vouchers? It’s that
they are so insulting. They think if they can use some flowery rhetoric the
community will just go, yeah, who cares if voucher schools have scant academic
and financial accountability, the teachers at them teach students not subjects,
like they do at
Andrew Catholic School in Pine Hills.
how his school teaches students not subjects is how James B. Herzog the
associate director for education at the Florida Conference for Catholic Bishops,
an organization that greatly benefits from vouchers started his pro-voucher
just completely ignore how vouchers, even the back door method Florida uses, obliterates
the first amendment and force citizens to support religion and instead let’s
just focus on the lack of accountability that they have.   
Mr. Herzog
goes on to say that parents benefit when they have more options, well I wonder
how the thousands and thousands of students whose parents enrolled their children in
charter schools that subsequently failed feel about that.

It also
directly contradicts what
Dr. Raymond of the Stanford Credo Charter project
recently said, I actually am kind of a
pro-market kinda girl. But it doesn’t seem to work in a choice environment for
education. I’ve studied competitive markets for much of my career. That’s my
academic focus for my work. And (education) is the only industry/sector where
the market mechanism just doesn’t work. I think it’s not helpful to expect
parents to be the agents of quality assurance throughout the state. I think
there are other supports that are needed… The policy environment really needs
to focus on creating much more information and transparency about performance
than we’ve had for the 20 years of the charter school movement. We need to have
a greater degree of oversight of charter schools. But I also think we have to
have some oversight of the overseers.

The thing is Charter
schools in Florida which as a group under perform when compared to public schools
at least have a semblance of oversight where vouchers do not.

Herzog then goes on to parrot
the voucher talking points but as usual leaves out that most of the schools
because they receive less than 250 thousand dollars don’t have to report how
the money is spent and that since they are exempt from the state tests we have
no way to compare how they are doing with public schools. 

I will bottom line it for
you, if you want vouchers, have all the schools that receive them report how they are spending
the money and have all the schools take the same tests. If voucher schools were to agree to do
those two things then the lion’s share of resistance to them would fade away.
The fact they resist both of these things however should really tell you all you need
to know. 

I will take Herzog at his
word that there are good things going on at his school but how do we know there
are good things going on at the other 1700 barely regulated private schools that
can teach creationism as science and don’t have to have certified teachers or
recognized curriculums? The answer is we don’t but that’s okay because at Herzog’s
school they teach students not subjects.

Next year vouchers can take nearly a half billion out of the states coffers and education and the truth is we have no idea how the vouchers schools are doing. That shouldn’t be acceptable to anyone.

Things have really changed for Florida’s teachers

As the school year comes to an end
a lot of teachers have a decision they need to make and it’s not where they
will go on summer vacation. As the economy slowly turns around and more and
more teachers have options, they have to decide if they will return to the

When I became a teacher over a
decade ago, teachers were guaranteed step advancements, cost of living
increases, raises, class size limits and
if they did their job well, job security. There wasn’t a 3% contribution to the FRS, or punitive
VAM evaluations, and testing was
something we did for a week towards the end of the year, not the end all be all
of education that it has become. Things have really changed, well except for Florida’s
teachers being some of the poorest paid in the nation that has been pretty

Perhaps the biggest change however
is how Florida views its teachers. They used to be respected and sometimes
revered members of the community. Now more often than not they are ridiculed
for being members of a union, which as you can see from above isn’t the bogey
man ramming demands through and blamed for not being able to single handily overcome
the debilitating effects of poverty. Teachers have become the scapegoats of
politicians and business interests who are seeking to privatize and profit off
of education and a community that has allowed it to happen.

If people truly care about education
and want to see it improve, then they have to stop letting Tallahassee injure the teaching
profession, we can’t marginalize, blame, and run teachers out to improvement.

Above is based upon a face book rift that several teachers are doing.

The absolute ridiculousness of Florida’s education system.

Okay before you continue reading, make sure you have swallowed all your milk.

Florida’s tests are only going to count if they are valid. This is because of tons of problems that resulted from rushing head long into something the state wasn’t prepared for. Florida has received one bid to see if the test are valid, and the company will do it for a cool half million dollars, and yes that is a problem too, but I will address it later.

According to the Tampa Times: The group would submit its project plan by June 19, preliminary reports by July 31 and final report by Aug. 28. 

August 28th by the way is after every school district in the state is back to school.

That might be all well in good but third graders have to make plans because the state of Florida plans to fail a fifth of them no matter what. 

Also from the Tampa Times:  …it gives schools the responsibility to prove that children scoring in the lowest 20 percent (“bottom quintile”) on the state reading test deserve promotion according to existing law. That law sets forth seven acceptable good cause exemptions for promotion, such as a portfolio demonstrating the student’s abilities.
“If they can’t prove promotion, they won’t be promoted,” bill sponsor Sen. John Legg explained.

But this brings us back to the problem, families have to start making plans and the results of the validity study won’t be back until late August and hey what if they say the test wasn’t valid? 
According to a letter sent to the parents of third graders where he asks families to put their lives on hold, Superintendent Vitti of Jacksonville said the state will let the district know sometime in June what third graders will be retained, and yes that is some two months before the company offering to validate the tests say they will be done, 
Aren’t you glad you finished your milk?
So let me sum up, the tests will only count if they are valid, we won’t know if they are valid for months, but that’s not going to stop the state from telling districts which fifth of kids to fail in the next couple weeks, apparently whether the tests are valid or not and for all of this we are paying a half million dollars. At this point I don’t know whether to be more confused or outraged.
Commissioner Pam Stewart because of her insistence that everything was fine and districts were ready has created this convoluted mess and she received a good evaluation from the state board for it too.

Is the Duval County school board in disarray?

From the Times Union:

 “We knew they were beginning the
school year under a deficit,” Couch wrote in an email to Duval Superintendent
Nikolai Vitti.

“Do you think the Board should have been notified of the declining financial
status of the school so we could make the determination how we wanted to
proceed so as not to disrupt student academic learning during this pivotal time
of the year? I am disturbed that we have been completely blind-sided by this
when according to state statute the Charter School is required to provide an
annual audit report and monthly financial statements.”

Years ago I had a student poop themselves, just go. I asked them, do you
think you should have told me you needed to go? Even though I phrased it like a
question, like Couch did, I already knew the answer and like her I was
disturbed by what happened.

Also from the Times Union: Duval’s school district officials also sent a
warning letter to Acclaim in April (weeks before they abruptly closed), the
last step before a 90-day countdown to close the school.

Couch asked Vitti why, if the district knew of a significant deficit before
the school year started, it did not start the closure process then?

Vitti said district staff acted as quickly as they could to ensure students
were enrolled in other schools and that the charter school’s contract with the
district gives it time to revise its budgets, correct spending and find the
money to stay open.

He said he didn’t know that district staff had sent Acclaim the warning
letter in April until afterward, but he trusts his staff’s judgment and feels
they acted appropriately.

“Had the charter organization submitted a corrective action plan by May 15
that was inadequate, which we now know it would have been, then we would have
likely made the recommendation to the board to close the school,” Couch said in
an email to Vitti.

So let me recap the district knew at the beginning of the year the school didn’t
have the enrollment to support its program, at the beginning of the year, but
they let them proceed anyways. In April, weeks before it closed district
officials sent a letter outlining their concerns, a letter, Vitti and the board
had no idea about. I get it they are busy people but really come on, a school
is on the brink of closing should make the cut list of things they should be
told and know about.

After I typed above I stared at my computer my mouth open a little simply
speechless. Does above seem like a district that is firing on all cylinders or
that has its act together. Our board and super really appear clueless and ineffective
and sadly this is not the first time either.

They need to sort their house out.  

The Duval County School Board simply did not want to know the Acclaim Charter School was going to fail.

They say there was no notice, they say there was no way they
could have known, well the truth is they could have known had they wanted too.
Another Acclaim charter school in March was taken over by
the Osceola County school board nearly six weeks before the school in Duval abruptly closed. Had the county been paying attention they could have had a heads up
instead of the blindside they claim happened.
Furthermore the state DOE in today’s Times Union’s article said
there is nothing to stop districts from asking prospective owners background questions, like,
have you ever filed for bankruptcy (the owner of Acclaim had) or run a school before (he
had not)?  Our board didn’t do so because
quite frankly they aren’t very good at their job and because they didn’t want
to know.
Even though the super and board constantly publicly bemoans the loss
of resources to charter schools the truth is there is not a more accommodating board
in the state and I believe it’s because both the super and many of the board members
owe their positions to charter school owners and supporters.  
We have school board members currently serving who would dismantle
public education if they could and it’s a shame because teachers and students
will pay the price for their ideological and self serving interests.
So don’t believe for a second that the school board didn’t
know or even as a group really cares, this was just a bump in the road on the
way to them privatizing local public education.

Study says teachers at high poverty schools are worn out, um duh!

Florida and most of the nation treats poverty as if it is nothing but an excuse for not doing well in school, well when they aren’t ignoring it that is. Poverty however is not an excuse, no, it is the number one measurable factor in education, those kids that live in it don’t do as well as those that don’t.

People can complain about it, point to this or that success story as some kids climbed their way out of it but that doesn’t change the fact that many kids in poverty will never climb their ways out of it. Unless we decide to act.

There are numerous things we can do to mitigate poverty. We should have a longer school year so kids have more time to learn and less time in between grades to lose what they did. We should have smaller classes so kids get more individual attention and then social workers and mental health counselors to provide wrap around services because why a kid acts up or does poorly in school often has nothing to do with school. We should have more arts, trades and skills in our neediest schools so it doesn’t become such drudgery for the kids while they are there and then they have options once they graduate too.  

Instead of addressing the number one problem leading to poor outcomes in schools, poverty, the powers-that-be instead focus on blame the teacher evaluations, high stakes tests, that excel at one thing and that’s to show the socioeconomic status of neighborhoods and putting poorly trained teach for america teachers who stay for a couple ears only to be replaced by anther set or you know the exact opposite of what we know that our most challenged students need. 

Two recent articles detail just how bad it is. The first is in the Tampa Times and it tells about the plight of teachers who work in our poorest schools.

But the proof is in their own data: It’s hard to teach at a high-poverty school.
There’s less buy-in from parents. Kids don’t follow the rules. There aren’t even enough computers. And staff turnover is sky high.
“We have 32 new teachers on board,” said Krystal Carson, principal of Potter Elementary School in east Tampa, which is struggling with behavior and other issues.
Instead of addressing working conditions in the high poverty schools and putting in behavior supports teachers are blamed and pushed out of the profession for not overcoming poverty.
Then an article in the Washington Post says teachers believe poverty is the number one problem in our schools, but since poverty is an excuse and teachers, you know the ones doing the actual educating are ignored nothing gets done about it.
From the Washington Post: There are many teachers across the country like Romero-Smith, who, day in and day out,work with students who come to class hungry or sick or homeless or traumatized or living in wretched conditions, and who aren’t fully able to concentrate on doing a close reading of a novel excerpt. They know that the conditions in which students live outside class are the biggest impediment to student progress.
These issues, however, have not been at the forefront of school reform efforts, which, under former president George W. Bush and now under President Obama, have concentrated on holding students, teachers and schools “accountable” for progress through the use of standardized test scores. School reform proponents say that they can’t fix poverty right away and that teachers too often use poverty as an excuse for a lack of student progress and fight reform efforts because they don’t want to be held accountable. Teachers have been shouting for years that for most of them, that simply isn’t true, but reformers have carried on anyway. Mental health issues get short shrift in school budgeting.
Yet research clearly shows the effects on student achievement by poverty-induced physical, sociological and psychological problems that children bring to school. David Berliner, regent’s professor emeritus at Arizona State University, a prominent researcher and educational psychologist who has studied the issue, cites six out-of-school factors that are common among the poor and that affect how children learn, but that reformers effectively say can be overcome without attacking them directly: (1) low birth weight and non-genetic prenatal influences; (2) inadequate medical, dental and vision care, often a result of inadequate or no medical insurance; (3) food insecurity; (4) environmental pollutants; (5) family relations and family stress; and (6) neighborhood characteristics.
Let me bottom line it for you. We can continue to blame teachers, we can continue testing kids to death, we can even outsource our kids education to for profit charters and unregulated private schools but none of that will help or fix our problems.  
We have to address poverty no matter how distasteful it is to some, that’s the solution and that’s what we should be doing,